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Higher Snap Count Expectancy Doesn't Faze Cardinals Defense

DC Vance Joseph says team can limit fatigue by forcing punts

OLB Chandler Jones cools down during Friday morning's practice.
OLB Chandler Jones cools down during Friday morning's practice.

The sweat was dripping and the chests were heaving at Cardinals practice on Friday morning.

Even though coach Kliff Kingsbury cut the session from two hours to one, the water coolers were still a player's best friend between snaps.

The Cardinals won't be playing in such oppressive heat when the regular season begins, but conditioning could still play a key factor in their fortunes.

If training camp is any indication, the offense will play fast in 2019.The criticism of such a style is that it wears down the team's own defense because it is on the field a lot week after week. Texas Tech, for instance, averaged 78.4 defensive snaps per game during Kingsbury's coaching tenure, about 12 more than the Cardinals defense played in 2019.

When asked about the potential pitfalls of a higher snap count, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph bats away any concern.

"We don't care about that," Joseph said. "When our number is called, we're going to play. Our main focus is to win first down and dominate third down. … We can simply limit the snaps we play by winning third down."

It's no secret Kingsbury's Texas Tech teams struggled defensively. Some believe the tempo wore out the defense. Others say the talent level was simply not high enough to contend with college football bluebloods like Oklahoma and Texas.

The Cardinals offense has commanded the majority of the attention in training camp, but the team's defense has been the stronger unit the past two seasons and has more proven players heading into 2019.

The points per game and total defense numbers may take a hit because of the tempo, but that's window dressing. Kingsbury does not believe the pace will hinder the team's chance at winning.

"If you score a lot of points and you have a good defense, it's not going to matter," Kingsbury said. "I think personnel is a big part of it. If you have to play a few more snaps here and there, obviously conditioning comes into play. I get that. But if you have the right personnel and the right scheme, everybody's bought in – it's about winning games whichever way you can do it."

The Cardinals' defense was on the field for 98 snaps in a win against the 49ers last season. Early the next week, there was grumbling about the physical toll it exacted. But safety Budda Baker said it is never a consideration in the moment.

"We just try to think of, get the ball back to the offense or score on defense," Baker said. "That's our mentality every time the defense is on the field. We don't count how many snaps we have. We don't know until after the game. We're just trying to get a 'W.'"

The Cardinals have known since Kingsbury's hire that both sides of the ball could see an uptick in snaps in 2019. Defensive tackle Corey Peters expects his group to rise to the challenge.

"It's just about being a professional and preparing yourself to play as many snaps as the game calls for," Peters said. "No matter how it shakes out, we're going into camp with the understanding that we need to prepare our bodies to be ready."

Images from practice on Thursday afternoon at State Farm Stadium